Lho. I am not Muslim. It is mentioned in my ID card that I am Christian even though I don’t go to church on Sunday (while in many countries ID cards do not say anything about your religion, something very personal which has nothing to do with the state).
Why did pak Ogah called me bu Haji? It’s not because I was generous, giving him lots of money for regulating the traffic in front of the narrow alley. (Hajs, priests and other religious leaders are supposed to be generous, aren’t they?). Sometimes I am even annoyed with pak Ogah who pretends to be busy while the road is empty.
Anyway, he called me bu Haji because I was wearing a Muslim-look blue hat that covered not only my head but also my ears, which any baseball cap could not do.
Sinead O’Connors shaved her head bald, making public appearances with confidence. And she looked beautiful.
Even though I am also beautiful (hehehe..), I am not Sinead O’Connors. I did not want to become the center of people’s attention. People in my neighborhood and everyone who saw my beautiful head would all talk about me, and reporters from Pos Kota, Check and Recheck, Seputar Indonesia, RRI and BBC would swarm my house and queue for an exclusive interview. Oh no… I was not ready for that.
Before my first chemo in January 2004, I had heard about the side effects. In this treatment you get some a combination of several kinds of liquid drugs infused into your blood. This formula (I’d rather call it poison—it’s true, all chemicals are basically poison), which is expected to combat cancer, is so powerful that it also affects the healthy cells.
Hair loss and nausea are the two common symptoms. I was lucky because I did not suffer from the nausea, but I had incredibly painful mouth ulcers. I hated it, but it was not the worst part.
After my first chemo, I pulled my hair, expecting the worst to come. But the hair was still there…It was not until the third chemo that the hair started to fall (like the snow in winter time…) I had prepared myself for this, still I trembled with a chilled feeling in my viscera… and was motionless for a moment… before I took a broom and swept the hairy floor… (lantai berambut)
I looked at the mirror. I used to have thin hair, but it was still better than no hair at all. I wished I was a man. It’s ok for men to have bald head, but when it happens to women, all eyes will be on them.
So I just wore a Muslim hat or a scarf but not a wig because it makes me uncomfortable (panasss).
A friend commented, joking: “Aku aja yang Muslim nggak pakai jilbab, koq kamu malahan pakai… “
Padahal aku nggak pakai jilbab beneran seperti Santi Soekanto (temen ex JP yang sudah lama nggak ketemu.. ) atau Ratih Sang (ex peragawati, adik Dewi Savitri yg juga ex JP) atau Soleha (tokoh sinetron RCTI yg setia ditonton nyokap setiap sore). Yang aku pakai adalah kain penutup kepala berwarna biru tua yang ujungnya aku ikatkan pada bagian belakang. Terus terang, aku sama sekali nggak merasa memakai jilbab, malah rasanya mirip ninja… (tapi ninja yang kelihatan hidung, pipi dan mulutnya) …
One day when I interviewed Martha Tilaar (owner of Sari Ayu cosmetics), the friendly woman said that she was Hitachi – Hitam Tapi China. And then she asked me (who was wearing a black, stylish Muslim woven hat): “Anda Cina Muslim ya?”
I smiled and told her the truth. She responded by offering free hair treatment in her beauty saloon and said that she would give me a comb made of buffalo horn. But I didn’t take the offer because her saloon was located quite far from my house and I was too shy to meet her secretary to collect the comb. And who needed a comb if there was no hair in the head?
Despite the painful mouth ulcers and the hair loss, I felt lucky because during the six-round chemotherapy I did not suffer any nausea or other serious side effects (tapi mual ketika mencium bau seonggok daging sapi menu makan siang di RS). I could work as usual, just like other people.
During my first chemo, I had to spend a night in the hospital (Metropolitan Medical Center in South Jakarta) because the doctor was afraid that something bad might happen to me. But for the five other chemo sessions , I only spent a few hours for the treatment. I drove my car to the hospital and after the treatment I drove again... And I was home, safe and sound.
Two years have passed since the chemoteraphy was over and no one calls me bu Haji anymore. As I have my thin hair back, my hats and scarfs now rest in the wardrobe. (If anyone needs it, I would gladly donate any of them)